On Summit Eve, Pacific Rim Countries to Talk Terror, Currency

Persuaded by the United States, Pacific Rim leaders were ready to step up their anti-terrorism fight amid fears that Al Qaeda (search)-linked groups are rebounding after recent crackdowns.

U.S. worries about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and allies' currency policies also took center stage ahead of Monday's start of a meeting of the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (search) members.

The issues arose as President Bush, spending his first full day in the Thai capital, met Sunday with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (search) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (search).

Terrorism is challenging the summit's stated goal of boosting trade and investment as the main topic.

Bush said all nations have an interest in fighting militant groups.

"One terrorist camp in the mountains of central Asia can bring horror to innocent people living far away, whether they are in Bali, Riyadh or New York City," he said in a speech at the Royal Thai Army headquarters.

"One murderous dictator pursuing weapons of mass destruction and cultivating ties to terror could threaten the lives of millions."

Regional leaders were expected to promise to dismantle terror groups, according to a draft communique obtained by The Associated Press.

Authorities have cracked the ring responsible for the bombing in a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, a year ago that killed 202 people. In August, they arrested Hambali, the operations chief for Jamaah Islamiyah, a terrorist group seeking a pan-Islamic state. He also was Usama bin Laden's alleged point man in Asia.

But the organization was able to regroup within three weeks, a senior Indonesian intelligence adviser told The Associated Press. The adviser said the group has appointed 48 people to carry out new attacks between December and April on international hotels and other Western targets in Asia.

The group's three new top leaders are believed to have played key roles in the Aug. 5 bombing of a Jakarta hotel that killed 12 people, according to the adviser and others.

Summit security is tight. Thai fighter jets escorted the planes of arriving VIPs. Helicopters shadowed motorcades through Bangkok's unusually empty streets.

Thailand has taken tough action to prevent the kind of violent demonstrations that have marred other international trade conferences. Far removed from the major conference sites, about 1,000 demonstrators rallied on a Bangkok university campus, calling Bush "the world's real terrorist." One man was arrested.

Bush had no luck convincing China that its currency is unfairly undervalued and hurting the American economy. Hu told business executives that Beijing's economic policies were good for global trade, and the two presidents emerged from private talks to sidestep the issue.

Summit participants planned to call on the World Trade Organization to restart talks on a new global commerce agreement while also pushing ahead with smaller, bilateral trade deals.

Australia reached a free trade and investment deal with Thailand on Sunday, while still negotiating one with the United States. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark hopes to soon enter into free-trade talks with the United States. Thailand and Peru agreed Friday to negotiations to set up a free trade area by 2015.

Bush also wants APEC leaders to discuss how to head off North Korea's ambitions to amass nuclear weapons.

On Sunday, he president rejected the North's demands for a nonaggression treaty. But he raised the possibility of a written, though less formal, security assurance from the United States, along with China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

Bush promoted the idea in a meeting Sunday with Hu, and was expected to do so again Monday with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.

The Thai government has quashed the mass demonstrations that have erupted at other international conferences in recent years. The government warned demonstrators not to disrupt APEC, and even compiled a blacklist of some 700 foreign activists who were not to be allowed into the kingdom until the conference ended.

But a peaceful protest did materialize Sunday as some 1,000 mostly Thai activists marching and shouting anti-Bush slogans and carrying a homemade banner reading, "Free Trade Is Not Fair Trade."